AHRC launches £80m creative industry research programme

AHRC launches £80m creative industry research programme

A new £80m programme will see the UK's creative industries partnered with universities for a series of funded research and development projects aimed at boosting innovation.

The Creative Industries Clusters Programme, led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and part of the government's Industrial Strategy, will back eight R&D partnerships aimed at responding to challenges identified by the publishing, music, film, video, design, architecture and related industries.    

The aim is “to support ground-breaking innovation by companies of all sizes – from micro-businesses and start-ups to multinational corporations”, to help the industries prosper and to boost the UK’s global reputation for creativity.

Funding of between £6m and £9m will be made available for each partnership, which will see an industry player paired with a higher education institution to investigate how to develop new products, services, creative content and experiences to drive future commercial value.

Issues the programme is keen to explore include how creative businesses can respond to a world of "rapidly evolving business models", how legal and regulatory frameworks "need to change to enable innovation in the creative sector", how creative industries can access finance for investment in innovation, issues of diversity in the workforce, a skills gap as regards new technology, and how the industries can access the people, skills, supply and distribution they need post-Brexit.

The programme will launch in 2018, and a call for proposals will launch in September. To give applicants time to prepare their bids, a “pre-call” announcement, giving details of the project, can be viewed now on the AHRC website.

Alongside these partnerships, a national Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre will be established to produce independent evidence and analysis for the industry and for policy-makers. The centre aims to produce high-quality understanding of the creative industries to inform future strategy.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “The Creative Industries Clusters Programme will deliver a real boost to the country’s already burgeoning creative industries, help spread prosperity and grow the creative skills base across the UK. This type of collaboration between government, businesses and universities is a perfect example of our Industrial Strategy in action.

“The UK’s creative industries are one of our fastest growing sectors, contributing nearly £90bn to the economy, including more than £21bn in export services, and employing more than two million people in creative occupations. They are among the industries of the future where British innovation has the potential to lead the world and we are determined to build on the sector’s many strengths."
AHRC chief executive Andrew Thomson described the Creative Industries Clusters Programme as “the largest ever single investment in arts and humanities-led research and innovation”, saying: "The programme will support long-term growth by producing a step-change in the development of innovative new products and services, the supply of high-value skills and the creation of new jobs. It will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for those universities that are involved: this is a chance for them to show how they can play an essential role in the creative economy.”

Entrepreneur Professor Andrew Chitty, recently appointed AHRC creative economy champion, noted: “As the sector continues to expand internationally and looks to adapt to new technologies and exploit new opportunities, skills gaps are becoming more evident: we need to develop our already highly creative workforce to make it fit for the future."  

Just £39m of the £80 total will be invested from the Industrial Strategy Fund, with the rest intended to be matched by "university and private sector funding".